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Pass on the brussels sprouts this year



Like a lot a people in Whistler, I'll be having an "orphan Christmas" this year – my first ever away from home.

Since I decided to come to terms with this rite of passage, this final severing of the apron strings, I've been finding that I've been talking a lot about Christmas and some of the quirks and traditions in my family that make it unique to us, just as it is unique in every family.

I know that even though I'll be snowboarding on the mountain on Christmas day, my mum will be trying to push brussels sprouts on everyone's dinner plate. She'll get angry when everyone refuses to eat them but it shouldn't really come as a big surprise to her as this happens every year. My mum will keep on making brussels sprouts every Christmas, even though no one eats them, just because that's what you're supposed to do.

It's pretty hard to argue with logic like that.

The same thing will happen with the ugly paper crown hats inside the Christmas crackers. The adults will put them on as soon as the cracker explodes. The rest will stare, amazed at the joy a Christmas cracker can bring, and wait until they're absolutely forced to put them on, after which they will then be forced to read their cracker "joke" aloud.

I also know that there will be a big fight among the entire family at one point. It will undoubtedly revolve around a debate over the answer on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card or a word that has been mysteriously left out of the Scrabble dictionary.

And Neil Diamond and Gordon Lightfoot will only be tolerated for a period time and then someone will take music matters too far by putting on Anne Murray and singing along to Snowbird. Another argument will then escalate until someone throws on the Beatles and calm is once again restored.

These are the things that make Christmas at the cottage unique to my extended family every year. I can guarantee without a doubt that all of the above will happen even though I'm not there because it happens every year.

It's these things that make Christmas so predictable, which in turn makes it so comforting. Reminiscing about my far-off family makes them seem closer.

In just the same way, my parents, aunts and uncles talk about their home and its traditions after they've all had a few too many cocktails at the end of our Christmas dinner, just before the Triv is set up.

This is when our history lesson begins.

Did we all know that the Scots have disproportionately contributed more to science, literature, medicine and the arts then any other nation in the world? Did we know that it was a Scot who developed the steam engine, who pioneered the television, who invented tarmac roads?

Did we know that there's something uniquely special about these people, our ancestors?

The more vodka/tonics that are consumed at the cottage, the more unique and special they become until pretty soon it's the descendants of the Scots that landed on the moon. Didn't we know? Don't we know anything?

At this point there is no sense in illustrating the fact that all of these ex-pats left Scotland to come to Canada, without a second glance back at the land they love so much. And none of them would go back now.

Likewise, there's no point in mentioning that Scotland has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in Europe, as well as alarmingly high rates of alcohol and drug abuse; they'll just argue that stupid film Trainspotting was in no way a true representation of Scotland, at least not the Scotland that they remember.

And don't even mention that the Scots have one of the worst diets in the developed world. My family would never believe that deep fried Mars bars could be bad for you, even though they would never eat one, because it was invented in Scotland.

To anyone else, a snapshot at this point on our Christmas day is like a really bad scene from So I Married an Axe Murderer. To the rest of us there, it's just another Christmas.

And I never thought I would say this but I think I'm really going to miss those brussels sprouts this year.